Positive Catastrophe: Garabatos Volume One (2009)
Positive Catastrophe has several things going for it. Disaster is not one of them. This 10-piece band, which has been active in New York City since 2007, is the offspring of co-leaders Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn) and Abraham Gomez-Delgado (percussion, voice). Bynum has long been a powerhouse in improvised music. Gomez-Delgado is also an active participant who believes that it is important to know one's roots before making them part of the experience. He thus brings in his own tangent with a broad mix of South American rhythms both as a player and a composer. The two blend jazz, salsa, rock and blues to create dazzling, and memorable music.
Though Bynum and Gomez-Delgado are votaries of improvised music, they do not forsake structure. Both streams are assimilated judiciously amalgamating brilliant hues and shade for a record that is full of surprise and delight.
"Plena Organization" is constructed on myriad colors invented through percussion, the shards of the cornet and a whirligig of instruments that storm the fabric of the composition. Tempered percussion and bass calm the tumult and transition the mood into calmer waters, without losing the anchor of invention.
Vocalist Jen Shyu is an accomplished stylist who mirrors the lyrics to reflect the emotional path with a high degree of sensitivity. She is at home on the beautiful ballad "Stillness/Life," enhancing the mood with her interpretation just as much as she is on the improvised terrain of "Travels Parts 1 & 2." Her voice assumes an ethereal quality floating in and out of the sparse instrumentation. Spearheaded by the saxophone, the band builds a curtain of sound that rises to a crescendo as Shyu turns her vocals into improvised art.
"Post Chordal" is a triumph of juxtaposition, the different parts forming a tangible whole. And so a funereal blues, a trenchant march and an Oriental melody are comfortable mates, wrapped in the blanket of the written note and free range playing.
Positive Catastrophe is a little big band that parlays disparate tendencies into one atmospheric whole within which they churn a plethora of visionary signatures. This can only bode well for future enterprises from this most welcome conglomeration.
Track Listing: Plena Organization; Travels Parts 1&2; Metro Mono; Plena Seguiro; Stillness/Life; Post Chordal; Plena Quicksand Monument; Revamped; Travels Parts 3&4; Contenido Adentro.
Personnel: Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, co-leader; Abraham Gomez-Delgado: percussion, voice, co-leader; Jen Shyu: voice, erhu; Mark Taylor: French horn, mellophone; Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone; Matt Bauder: tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet; Michael Attias: baritone saxophone; Pete Fitzpatrick: electric guitar; Alvaro Benavides: electric bass (1-4, 6, 7, 9, 10); Keith Witty: acoustic bass (5, 8, 9); Tomas Fujiwara: drums.